LUNA The Shadow Dust Review – PC
+ Art style
+ Puzzle design
- Weak storytelling
- A few obtuse puzzles
At first glance LUNA The Shadow Dust might look like any of the other thousands of indie adventure game found in the Steam library, but once you start to play it and the hand-drawn and animated characters spring to life and actually begin to exist within these gorgeous environments, you’ll realize you are experiencing something quite special. When combined with some fantastic cinematics and a score worthy of a separate purchase, there were times when I felt like I was playing one of those animated shorts you see nominated for an Academy Award that you never heard of but deserves to win.
If LUNA were a film it would be a silent one, as nary a word is uttered in this point-and-click adventure that lets the art and music do all the talking. Even during the opening cutscene where you would expect a bit of narration and setup, the designers aren’t giving you a hint of who you are, why you are here, what to do, or how to do it. This can lead to some minor frustration in the very beginning, but the “rules” become clear all too soon, as you immerse yourself in a classic puzzle game that relies heavily on shadows and light and environmental manipulation.
Gameplay is delightfully simple where you are free to click and move about the storybook-style background art. When you enter a scene you can move the mouse around to see where the icon changes into a hand indicating something can be interacted with, then it’s up to you to figure out what you need to do to “escape” the room you’re in and advance to the next room/puzzle. The puzzles themselves are quite engaging with logical steps to complete them that, while not always obvious at first, will slowly reveal themselves, giving you a great sense of accomplishment when solving or a great sense of relief when you finally stumble on the solution.
As you solve the tower of puzzles and continue room to room you will eventually meet up with this adorable little companion critter that, once rescued, can become a playable character and assist you in solving these puzzles as well as creating some new ones. Your new pet is entirely under your control, which means you now have to lead them both to the exit, creating all sorts of new traversal puzzles. In one of the earlier rooms in the game you will need to manipulate the environment to get your pet into a pet-sized window so they can unlock the exit from the other side.
LUNA The Shadow Dust is the perfect blend of stunning artwork, beautiful music, charming characters, and traditional point-and-click adventuring that has been missing from the genre for quite some time. There are no graphics options for the game but it looks amazing at whatever resolution it’s running and the choice of instruments and composition of the score is the perfect audio backdrop for exploration and puzzle-solving. The game is linear and without a hint system if you get stuck in a room you won’t be able to advance until you figure it out or look-up a solution, but out of the dozens of locations there were only 2-3 puzzles that truly melted my brain. Again, most can be solved with logic, trial and error, and a bit of luck and depending on your skill at solving these makes LUNA a 4-6 hour game.
I was tremendously impressed with LUNA The Shadow Dust. This is a flawless execution of pure whimsical charm in both presentation and game design, and while the story (if there even was one) was left mostly to interpretation, I came away from the experience feeling satisfied and maybe a bit smarter than when I started.